German Windmill

Germany’s Wind Power Losing Fans

As Angela Merkel’s plans to make Germany the greenest country in Europe progress, the unintended consequences of the efforts are diminishing public support.

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German Windmill

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Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ambition to make Germany the greenest country in Europe seemed to becoming reality when, in 2007, they surpassed the EU target for 12% of a countries energy production coming from renewable sources three years early. Instead of congratulating themselves Merkel and her cabinet vouched that by 2050 they would source a staggering 80% of their countries energy from purely renewable methods. Sounds ideal? Well maybe not.

In a seemingly bizarre twist Greenpeace are now at loggerheads with the Green party. The Greens are facing a dilemma; the majority of their policies are based around renewable energy, however some rather serious claims have come to light which might seriously impact Germany’s bid for so called ‘Green’ energy. As well as the well-known argument that European countries simply do not have the right conditions for successful energy productions through methods such as wind farming it has been claimed that by implementing these new methods of energy production there has been a detrimental impact on the environment.

Hesse, Germany, is home to an area of woodland named ‘The Bagpipe’. Once an area popular with hikers, Der Spiegel has revealed in an interview with Martin Kaiser,  that ancient oak trees have been felled to create room for this so called ‘clean’ energy production. It has been estimated that the clearing of this relatively small area of trees will have released more than 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In other areas farmland is being planted with thousands of acres of energy-producing corn. To fertilise this corn farmers use digestate, a by-product of biogas. Although thought of as a very environmentally friendly type of fertiliser, digestate actually poses quite a few problems. The farmers in Germany use the fertiliser after the harsh winter; however the precipitation at this time of year could in fact spread the fertiliser into local water sources causing contamination. Logistics are also an important factor; what would be the point of using so called ‘green’ methods if you have to transport them from a biogas plant to the fields using lorries? With this in mind biogas plants need to be constructed near to the fields, however in order to turn the digestate into a usable product it needs to go through a rigorous distillation process. If the water plant is situated away from the biogas plant yet more transportation is required. This transportation not only costs the environment, it also costs as much as €20 to carry one ton of liquid digestate. It has been estimated that a 3MW biogas plant could be charged 1.6 million Euros per annum. The theory behind the corn is that it will make Germany less reliant on oil import and reduce the emissions of greenhouse gas, however as the U.S has found Ethanol actually requires a lot of energy to produce yet it takes over 113.4 kilograms to fill a 25 gallon tank with ethanol. That’s enough to supply a person with their annual calorie intake.

I have already briefly covered some of the costs involved with renewable energy sources in the preliminary stages, however especially in the transitionary period Der Spiegel has revealed that there are even more costs which this time directly affect the consumer. Wind power can be irregular as it is obviously weather dependant and so intermittency is a problem. In times where there has been a lot of energy produced there has actually been surplus power produced. The fact is that Germany’s electricity grid just isn’t able to cope with these power surges causing the subsidy framework to become over-burdened which forces the cost of electricity to shoot up. The pricing and transition to renewable energy is also not consistent throughout Germany as each area has set their own targets which cause yet more problems for the national grid. This obviously makes the consumers less keen on renewable energy as so far it does not benefit them economically.

There are more problems for the public – due to these new technologies people in the traditional sector of mining and nuclear power plants are now being made redundant, as they are not qualified to work with the new forms of energy production. This global economy has also had a domino effect and although Germany is seen as economically strong compared to the rest of Europe this is still relative and people are concerned that the government are wasting money on this idealistic project.

I believe that one of the main issues with this project is the fact that the political undertones are too strong. As the election is in 6 months a cynic such as myself might suggest that the project is being rushed as Merkel and her government want to be seen as a successful party. As this is one of Merkel’s most publicised bills she needs to be seen to succeed. However, there have already been big cuts in the funding of the venture with Berlin planning to cancel some of the subsidy programs set up to support the project. I would argue that the only way to make such a big switch is to do it slowly and sensitively keeping an eye on the effect it will have upon all sectors instead of their own prerogatives.

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Photo Credit: Mobilus in Mobili

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Hillary Clinton, per Newsweek la donna americana più potente di sempre

Hillary Rodham Clinton: un ritratto della donna più potente nella storia della politica statunitense.

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[dropcap]S[/dropcap]econdo i sondaggi Gallup, Hillary Rodham Clinton è stata la donna più ammirata del mondo negli ultimi undici anni mentre, per la rivista Forbes, solo Angela Merkel sarebbe più potente e influente a livello globale. Semi-sconosciuta prima della campagna elettorale del 1992, Hillary Rodham Clinton- che non ha mai voluto abbandonare il proprio cognome da nubile- ha ben presto mostrato il suo temperamento deciso e l’intenzione di voler giocare un ruolo attivo nella presidenza del marito. Preceduta da personalità femminili illustri quali Eleanor Roosevelt e Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton ha messo a frutto l’eredità ricevuta, cercando di superare i limiti già raggiunti da altre donne prima di lei.

Sin dal suo ingresso sulla scena mondiale, la Clinton è stata considerata portavoce delle donne della generazione del baby boom degli anni ’50, impersonando il modello di donna in carriera, impeccabile, attenta alla famiglia, ma contraria alle convenzioni tradizionali. Tralasciando gli anni alla Casa Bianca come first lady, che richiederebbero uno spazio ben più ampio per essere trattati esaurientemente, la Clinton ha iniziato autonomamente la propria carriera politica come Senatrice dello Stato di New York dal 2001 fino al 2009, quando Barack Obama la nominò segretario di Stato. Nel 2008 i due democratici si erano contesi la candidatura per le presidenziali, rappresentando così due delle principali minoranze del popolo statunitense, le donne e gli afroamericani. Quando, nel 2009, Obama le assegnò il ruolo di segretario di Stato, la Clinton era la terza donna, dopo Madeleine Albright e Condoleeza Rice, ad assumere questo incarico all’interno dell’establishment statunitense. Nonostante non fosse stata la prima a ricoprire quella carica, senza dubbio il suo mandato ha rappresentato un momentum notevole sia all’interno della sua carriera personale che per la carica in sé.

Nel suo ultimo discorso come segretario di Stato, Hillary Clinton ha riassunto in pochi punti le politiche centrali nella gestione del Dipartimento di Stato: in primo piano l’uso dei mass media e dei social network come strumento di smart power, ovvero come mezzo per aggirare il controllo e il dispotismo dei governi e dei regimi lì dove i movimenti di liberazione nazionali e democratici agiscono spesso in tal modo; in secondo luogo l’uso delle politiche tradizionali per portare avanti le politiche di non proliferazione; successivamente l’uso della diplomazia economica che associa i finanziamenti e i programmi per favorire gli scambi economici e commerciali con i paesi del Terzo Mondo, all’idea che l’economia e la politica siano strettamente interconnesse e che quindi entrambe abbiano un ruolo determinante sull’assetto geopolitico mondiale. Questi tre aspetti rappresentano in modo chiaro il nuovo approccio che la diplomazia statunitense ha cercato di adottare durante questo quadriennio: una politica estera versatile, paragonata dal segretario di Stato ad uno stile architettonico moderno, il quale utilizza un mix di materiali e linee architettoniche variegate per rispondere alle esigenze di un’epoca storica contrassegnata da molteplici sfide.

Se il cambiamento qualitativo non fosse sufficiente, la Clinton ha raggiunto anche un record quantitativo, a seguito del numero di Paesi visitati nell’arco degli ultimi quattro anni: con 112 capitali, l’ex segretario di Stato ha superato persino Madeleine Albright, che ne aveva visitate solamente 96. Anche in questo aspetto, la Clinton ha voluto esplicitamente dar prova di un cambiamento, visitando non solo i principali alleati, ma anche quei Paesi strategicamente meno rilevanti per il governo statunitense.

Nei suoi innumerevoli spostamenti, le esperienze più toccanti sono senza dubbio arrivate dalla visita ad Aung San Suu Kyi in Birmania, in un’occasione che vide combaciare l’interesse diplomatico di dimostrare vicinanza agli oppositori dei governi autocratici con l’attivismo dell’ex first-lady per i diritti delle donne. Un interesse, questo, dichiarato apertamente fin dai suoi primi anni alla Casa Bianca, quando la Clinton annunciò che i diritti umani potevano essere tali solo se intesi, prima di tutto, in quanto diritti delle donne. Tra le ultime iniziative a favore di una maggior rappresentanza politica femminile, è spiccata l’istituzione di Melanne Verveer alla carica di Ambasciatrice generale per le questioni di genere nel mondo.

Tuttavia, se da un lato la conduzione del Dipartimento di Stato da parte della Clinton ha vantato un approccio innovativo, il chiaro supporto alle democrazie e un rinnovato attivismo a favore delle donne, dall’altro permangono ancora degli aspetti opachi che è necessario considerare più approfonditamente. Ad esempio, a causa della scarsa esperienza del Presidente Obama in materia di politica estera e la sua incapacità di mantenere una linea decisionale ferma e coerente, il Dipartimento di Stato ha giocato un ruolo molto marginale rispetto a quello cui avrebbe potuto aspirare, e che aveva raggiunto in periodi precedenti. Inoltre, l’incarico di segretario di Stato ha allontanato la Clinton dal dibattito e dalle questioni di politica interna, lasciando libera la scena all’attuale first lady, Michelle Obama. Fra le altre, proprio quest’ultima potrebbe essere quella figura femminile sufficientemente influente in grado di contendere alla Clinton il titolo di donna più potente nella storia della politica americana: banalmente, se si considerano i followers su Twitter, l’attuale first lady è seguita da oltre 3 milioni di utenti, contro i soli 73 mila del segretario di Stato uscente, per non parlare della popolarità che stanno conferendo a Michelle Obama le apparizioni pubbliche in spettacoli televisivi e in eventi mondani, non da ultimo la consegna del premio per il miglior film nella notte degli Oscar.

Ironia della sorte, è precisamente di un dream ticket Clinton-Obama (Hillary e Michelle, stavolta) che si inizia a ipotizzare (e forse sperare) tra i media americani, che evidenziano enfaticamente il contributo e l’impatto causato dalle due first ladies sul popolo americano. La Clinton, che a fine mandato era apparsa piuttosto cauta riguardo alle prossime elezioni, ha da poco rilasciato una dichiarazione in favore dei matrimoni gay -un’inversione di tendenza rispetto alle sue precedenti posizioni- che potrebbe rivelarsi il primo passo per ingraziarsi l’elettorato under30 in vista della campagna presidenziale per il 2016. Tuttavia, a prescindere dalle sue scelte future, l’ex segretario di Stato ha già lasciato un segno indelebile nella storia politica americana.

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Photo Credit: PanARMENIAN_Photo

 

digital-brainz

The Cyber-Industrial-Complex

The dynamic and rapidly evolving cyber-threat landscape has resulted in extensive budgetary, military, and legislative provisions, entrenching deep-seated relations between government, armed services, and commercial actors. The Cyber-Industrial-Complex and quest for ‘fifth domain’ dominance has significant geostrategic consequences. 

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digital-brainz

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This paper lays plain the growing pressure and increased enthusiasm of governments, armed services, and commercial actors to develop and operationalise military capabilities in cyberspace. The argument shall be made that the lines between these ostensibly distinct spheres have become increasingly muddied, and we are witnessing the emergence of a new cyber-industrial-complex. Furthermore, blind faith that the militarisation of the fifth domain will achieve effectual cyber security is misplaced and, ultimately, the top-down control of cyberspace — at odds with prevailing internet behaviour — is an expensive means to achieve relatively ineffectual security.

Reference will be made to relevant case studies and conceptual frameworks from the social sciences. Analysis is approached through five convergent lines of enquiry: To provide context, first the development of the internet from a ‘tool’ to a ‘territory’ shall be discussed; exploring the various technological, demographic, and social shifts this evolution has fostered. Next, the geostrategic impact of cyber threats shall be touched upon, describing the economic, legal and strategic affects profoundly influencing our perceptions of cyberspace. This will be followed by the ways in which governments have sought to securitise cyberspace, highlighting the various budgetary and operational considerations driving the militarisation of the ‘fifth domain’. Following on, a discussion of ‘threat inflation’ and ‘cyber-doom’ narratives shall be presented, critiquing parallels drawn between ‘cyber-war’ and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). Finally, the amalgamation of political, military, and commercial interests within the ‘cyber-industrial-complex’ shall be examined. In concluding, many of the challenges facing policymakers will be considered, and the call for sober, research-driven policy prescriptions will again be reiterated.

Primarily however, the inherent limitations of exploring a relatively young, multidisciplinary field examining such a rapidly evolving subject must be acknowledged[1]. Themes discussed here are therefore more akin to Weberian concepts of ideal typical discourses than static social truths[2]. Despite this papers validity and current application, it is but a cursory examination of the cyber-industrial-complex, intended to stimulate further debate, and as such caution should be exercised when making wider generalisations, predications or forecasts[3]. Indeed, it is suggested that the hyperbolic status quo should be reflected upon, reconsidered, and replaced with a far more objective risk assessment of the threats posed.

In order to effectively address the question and avoid tangential theoretical debates, the utility of explicitly expressed working definitions is crucial — appreciating that more appropriate vernacular may very well develop[4]. Throughout, ‘the internet’ is taken as the “global computer network, providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected [network of] networks using standardised communication protocols”[5]. Here, Stevens’[6] definition of ‘cyberspace’ as the “total landscape of technology mediated communication” is utilised. It takes Cramer and Thrall’s depiction of ‘threat inflation’ as the creation of “concern for a threat that goes beyond the scope and urgency [a]… disinterested analysis would justify”[7].

The World Brain: from Tool to Territory

To contextualise changing attitudes and perceptions of cyberspace it is important historically ground this evolution. In 1937, futurist H.G. Wells hypothesised the future development of an international encyclopaedia or World Brain, encompassing the sum of human knowledge. In the 1960s Joseph Licklider, first head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), envisioned a ‘Galactic Network’ of globally connected computers through which anyone could access information. Advancements in packet switching, standardisation of Internet protocols, and the expanded connection of the original ARPANET to include research and education institutions in the 1970/80s, saw Wells’ vision being plausibly discussed for the first time. The commercialisation of the internet occurred in the 1990s, as final traffic restrictions were lifted[8].

Today cyberspace is almost unrecognisable from earlier manifestations, now fully entrenched in all facets of modern life, culture, and commerce. The astonishingly rapid growth of cyberspace, from a research tool used by a few, to the ubiquitous framework sustaining global societies is unparalleled[9]. Widely considered a catalyst for globalisation, the rise of the internet, concomitant to the ascension of the information based global economy, will doubtless come to epitomise this era of history as the enlightenment and industrial revolution has preceding centuries[10]. The internet has transformed and revolutionised: employment, trade, culture, innovation, politics, research, education, development, sociality, information access, and, most notably, the communications landscape. In 1993 1% of the world communicated through two-way telecommunications, by 2000 this had risen to 51%, in 2007 it was 97%[11]. Internet penetration exploded from 360 million in 2000, to 2.4 billion in 2012 – an extraordinary 556% rise[12]. The world population is on course to reach 7.3 billion by 2016, with mobile internet devices exceeding 10 billion[13]. The volume of SMS messages tripled between 2007 and 2010, topping 6.1 trillion, averaging 200,000 messages per second[14].

Beyond enormous technical enhancements[15], cyberspace is experiencing a demographical shift, as the pendulum of internet concentration swings from the global North to the South, challenging traditional Western hegemony[16]. While cyberspace may be indigenously American, countries such as China, India, and Brazil will come to outnumber the early ‘digital natives’ within our lifetime[17]. Asia constitutes 42% of the planet’s internet population (#1), but enjoys only 21.4% penetration (#6), illustrating the enormous potential for connectivity[18]. Of 5.3 billion mobile subscriptions in 2010, 3.8 billion were from the developing world, and 18/55 highest internet penetrating countries are some of the “poorest and weakest of the international community”[19].

Inevitably new demographics bring fresh cultural, social, political, and strategic priorities. Cyberspace is now widely acknowledged as a “commons” where people socialise, engage, and organise, but also an environment in its own right[20]. In keeping with the pioneering, post-territorial aspirations of the internet[21], Sanderson and Fortin[22] observe large-scale adoption of cyberspace as dissolving physical confines and redefining core societal precepts. Renninger and Shumar[23] view the internet as a tool and a territory, facilitating users to assemble in the virtual arena who would otherwise be unable. Amit[24] describes shifting anthropological appreciations of the social environment, from tangible social forms to emphasising the virtual. Cyberspace can no longer simply be viewed as simply a medium, or even a medley of mediums, but as a “continent, rich in resources”, possibilities, and challenges[25].

Geostrategic Influence

This shift towards perceiving cyberspace as a new environment transcending society, economics, and geopolitics, has attracted nefarious actors seeking to exploit vulnerabilities to reap enormous personal and collective rewards[26]. Inevitably, this has drawn the attention of nation states seeking to protect their interests, whilst staking claim and establishing control over this emergent terrain[27]. Governments have sought to delineate boundaries, through a myriad of legislation, whilst military and intelligence entities have scrambled to assert their own influence over this territory[28]. Minimal barriers and relative anonymity of malicious actors, combined with the emergence of Web 2.0 and “malware ecosystems” propagating hacking tool-kits and botnets, have allowed determined groups — whether criminals, freelancers, military or intelligence agencies — to make substantial gains beyond real world means[29].

Once the sole concern of an inner circle of technologists, internet control and security has become the preoccupation of nation states. The three primary cyber-threats concerning governments are: 1. Theft, corruption, manipulation or exploitation of information; 2. Disruption of accessibility to networks, data, or resources; 3. Destruction or degrading of networks, infrastructure, and communications[30]. Within a geostrategic paradigm, such threats have profoundly influenced the militarisation of cyberspace[31]:

Firstly, there is the economic burden. The UK government placed the 2012 national cost of cybercrime at £27 billion, £16.8 billion being industrial espionage[32]. US intellectual property theft purportedly amounts to $250 billion per annum[33], cybercrime a further $114 billion, or $388 billion factoring in downtime[34]. McAfee[35] estimates global annual remediation costs to be an incredible $1 trillion, a statistic often cited despite being disputed by the very researchers ostensibly quoted[36]. The pilfering of sensitive information cost Coca-Cola their attempted takeover of Huiyuan Juice Group in 2009, producing losses in the region of $2.4 billion[37]. Nortel, once the world leading telecommunications supplier valued at $250 billion, declared bankruptcy in 2009 following a nine year data exfiltration[38]. The “astonishing” number of “industrial scale”[39] cyber-attacks targeting UK companies, prompted MI5 Director General, Jonathan Evans, to issue warning letters to the top 300 British businesses stressing the threat of “electronic espionage”[40]. Although ascribing the true cost of cyber-attacks is extremely difficult, immeasurable even, it is clear the costs from intellectual property and R&D theft alone are enormous, rising, and potentially of the magnitude to influence global power relations[41].

Secondly, we see an obscurity of political liability by utilising proxy servers, ‘cyber-militias’, and freelance hackers to execute attacks [42]. Potentially creating the smoke and mirrors useful for implanting ‘logic bombs’ into critical infrastructure, but primarily affording states plausible deniability for actions likely at odds with their official political stance[43]. An interesting case is the oft-cited 2007 Estonian incident, where Russian ‘patriotic’ hackers launched a DDoS attack on banking and civil service systems. Russia inevitability denied responsibility, and attribution proved unsuccessful[44]. Nevertheless, Moscow achieved the same coercive ends without any serious diplomatic repercussions, essentially punishing Estonia whilst circumventing legal accountability for targeting civilian institutions[45]. In more pugnacious uses of cyber-militia by Russia during her conflict with Georgia, the sabotage of key Georgian communication systems synchronised with kinetic military operations, further demonstrated the efficacy of deniability[46]. Had the military been directly implicated, Russia would have violated legal armed conflict doctrines, as cyber attacks on third-party states were necessary to disrupt Georgian systems[47]. Again, Moscow successfully sabotaged Georgia’s communications whilst evading liability.

Thirdly, the rapidly transforming cyber-threat landscape, has redefined the strategic perspective of many governments. States now view cyberspace as a means to either augment or substitute their kinetic warfare capabilities. The 2007 Israeli bombing of the Syrian nuclear facility at Dayr az-Zawr provides an interesting case in point. By using UAVs similar to the ancillary US programme Senior Suter[48], Israel was able to hack air-defence systems and manipulate radar images to display a clear sky, allowing F15 fighter jets to carpet bomb the site and leave Syrian airspace without any resistance or retaliation[49]. Many governments are proactively seeking to develop their cyber-arsenals, creating numerous dedicated institutions and markets to this end.

Militarising the Fifth Domain

The four year, £650m British Cyber Security Strategy emphasises protective, defensive, and ‘pre-emptive’ action aimed at: tackling cyber crime to ensure a secure business environment; improving system and software resilience; encouraging stable social arenas; and improving knowledge and skill-sets necessary to achieve these stated goals[50]. It details numerous provisions seeking to raise public and commercial awareness, bolster law enforcement and cross-border collaboration, improve industry standards, and develop MoD and GCHQ capabilities[51]. Although emphasising target hardening and resilience — a necessary and welcomed development — the offensive stance throughout is arrant:

“Defence Cyber Operation Group [is] to bring together cyber capabilities from across defence. The group will include a Joint Cyber Unit hosted by GCHQ… [to] develop new tactics, techniques, and plans to deliver military effects”[52]

Notions of ‘pre-emptive defence’ are echoed in the NATO Strategic Concept, where the language of prevention, detection, and defence blends with notions of military capability, operational reach, and strategic dominance[53]. This doctrine is most explicit in the US, where the Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace: Priorities for 21st Century Defense are candid about intentions to boost military capabilities and operational effectiveness in all realms – land, air, maritime, space, and now the ‘fifth domain’, cyberspace[54]. This mission has fallen to US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), who established US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) to synchronise operations across the military sphere, including Army Cyber Command10th Fleet Cyber Command,  24th Air Force, and Marine Corps Forces Cyber Command. An interesting directorial feature is USCYBERCOM’s dual locality within the NSA, and the unprecedented tri-hatting of Gen. Keith Alexander as Director of NSAChief of the Central Security Service, and Commander of USCYBERCOM.

In the 2013 US fiscal budget cyber capabilities are a priority; designating $3.4 billion for USCYBERCOM, with a total allocation of £18 billion through to 2017[55]. The Department for Homeland Security will spend: $345 million on the National Cybersecurity Protection System and EINSTEIN.3 – the intrusion detection and analytics system; $236 million will be spent on the Federal Network Security Branch to secure agency systems; $93 million on U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, the operational wing of the National Cyber Security Division; $64.5 million on cyber investigations and computer forensics conducted by the Secret Service; and $12.9 million on virtual training and cyber-war games[56].

Although the tendency for governments to view the cyber-domain through a military lens may be more acute than ever, it is certainly not a recent theme[57]. The history of militarising cyberspace has been a gradual process concomitant to the technological, demographic, and social shifts previously discussed. ARPANET was originally funded by the US Department of Defense (DoD), the term “cyber-deterrence” was coined in 1994, and ‘Eligible Receiver’, the first NSA cyber-war games were held in 1997[58]. The first public reference to “cyber-attack” and “information security risks” were made by former CIA Director George Tenet in 1998, the same year cyber operations were consolidated under the Computer Network Defense Joint Task Force[59]. In 2003, the National Cyber Security Division was established, tasked with protecting government systems, and in 2006 plans for USCYBERCOM were announced. Perhaps then, using tactical or warfare rhetoric to describe objectives in cyberspace is somewhat inevitable. Yet, despite a long military history in the fifth domain, the economic, political, and strategic affects of cyber-attacks, and the enormous budgets to further militarise cyberspace, no act of cyber-war has taken place. All known examples of politically inspired cyber-attacks amount to either sabotage, subversion, or espionage[60], and cannot be considered war by the Clausewitzian[61] definition, as all three rudiments are not present: violence and potential lethality of the act, instrumental imposition will over another, and perceptible and attributable political responsibility[62].

Cyber-Doom and Threat Inflation

Several high-profile cases are often referenced as evidence of impending cyber-war: the Estonian and Georgian DDoS incidents; The Operation Aurora case in which Google, Yahoo, Symantec, Northrop Grumman, and Morgan Stanley networks were compromised[63]; The Gh0stNet espionage network which leveraged Web 2.0 and cloud-based technologies to infect embassies, foreign ministries, NGOs, and government departments, implicating a Chinese military SIGINT base and organised crime[64]; The Stuxnet sabotage of Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz, seemingly with US and Israeli involvement; and the sophisticated espionage toolkit Flame[65].

The drumbeat of “cyber-doom”[66] scenarios, replayed in the media echo-chamber, has provided a steady and constant cadence for the oratory emanating from  Westminster and especially Washington[67]. Prophetical disaster rhetoric evoked by ‘expert’ commentators envisage a cataclysmic cyber event, in which the financial sector collapses, planes collide midair, trains derail, military defences disintegrate, industrial control systems fail, “lethal clouds of chlorine gas” leak from chemical plants, gas pipelines and refineries explode, dams breach, reactors meltdown, power blackouts engulf the country, satellites spin into the obis, and “thousands of people” die… but authorities are paralysed in the face of crumbling communications and digital devastation[68].

This tone continues elsewhere: Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta’s ominous forecast of a looming “cyber Pearl Harbour”, former head of the National Cyber Security Division, Amit Yoran’s claims “cyber-9/11 has happened”, Vanity Fair’s portrayal of Stuxnet as the “Hiroshima of cyber-war”, and Director of the International Telecommunications Union, Hamadoun Touré’s claims that “cyber-war will be worse than a tsunami”, are the most infamous, vacuous, and distasteful examples of this apocalyptic theme[69]. Although the most revealing doomsday framing[70] comes from former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Carl Levin, when he stated; “cyberweapons and cyberattacks… approach weapons of mass destruction in their effects”[71].

Yet, nothing remotely resembling ‘cyber-doom’ has come to pass, and no fatality nor building destruction has even been attributable to a cyber-attack[72]. Despite Estonian politicians claiming that DDoS attacks and “a nuclear explosion…[are] the same thing”[73], NATO’s Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence described the impact of the attacks as “minimal” or “nonexistent”[74] This solipsistic introjection — assigning imagined behaviours and character traits onto an invisible enemy[75] — combined with a technological malaise characteristic of late-modernity[76], has seen the development of societal pessimism, dystopian fears, and a sense of political impotence regarding the prevalence of modern technologies[77]. These fears are reminiscent of bygone anxieties regarding earlier communicative mediums and reflective of broader, tenuous concerns about societal fragility[78]. Previous 20th Century moral panics over increased radio, telegraph, and telephone use, ultimately proved unfounded and transient, soon to be surpassed by the latest technological trepidation[79]

The WMD parallel does, however, provide an illuminating comparison in one regard. In the run up the Iraq war the Bush administration described a “bullet-proof”[80] link between Sadaam Hussein and 9/11 – purportedly providing refuge and training to al-Qaeda[81]. Controlled Whitehouse leaks implied Iraq held WMDs, successfully conflating the very different threats and consequences of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons[82]. Although allegations — including the purchase of ‘yellowcake’ for uranium enrichment — were ultimately proved fallacious, 40% of Americans still believed Saddam Hussein was “personally involved” in 9/11 as late as 2006[83]. Although no evidence substantiated these alarmist claims, the media relayed the government line without scrutiny and the administration was essentially able to cite news articles written speculating upon their own fictitious leaks[84]. It is this amplification of risk, or ‘threat inflation’, that Cramer and Thrall[85] describe. Speculative commentary about Iranian or North Korean cyber capabilities, unsubstantiated suppositions of the Chinese “lac[ing] US infrastructure with logic bombs”[86], and unverifiable assertions from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) that cyber threats represent “a strategic issue on par with weapons of mass destruction and global jihad!”[87], fuel cyber-doom advocacy, and conflate sabotage, espionage, and subversion, under the banner of ‘cyber-war’ in a manner eerily redolent of Iraq WMD threat inflation[88].

The Cyber-Industrial-Complex

President Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address warned of a “hostile ideology…global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose”[89]. He feared deepening monetary relationships between legislators, the military, and the industry providing defence services and supplies, would lead to skewed national, economic, and security priorities, in what he phrased the “military-industrial-complex”[90]. As during the Cold War, contemporary cyber-war rhetoric maintains pressure to keep up or fall behind in the neoteric digital arms race[91]. Despite technical and intelligence ambiguities as to how cyber-weapons would actually be deployed, the distinct absence of empirical evidence, and multifaceted ambiguities surrounding who, why, and what is under threat, and from whom[92], a thriving cyber-industrial-complex has emerged to save us from our cyber-doom.

In 2010, 1,931 private companies worked on intelligence and homeland security programmes in the US, 143 were contracted to “top secret” cyber operations[93]. In an era of austerity and defence cuts, US cyber-security expenditure is predicted to rise from $9.2 billion to $14 billion by 2016[94]. The global cyber-security market, currently worth $65.7 billion, will climb to $85 billion by 2016, growing by an extraordinary 9% in 3 years[95]. Upward budget trajectories have galvanised the cyber-security market, where the biggest beneficiaries will be traditional defence giants such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, ManTech, and Northrop Grumman, who are already repositioning themselves within the cyber-industrial-complex[96]. Leading technology companies like Symantec, IBM, Cisco, and McAfee will also prosper[97], as will smaller cyber-security start-ups like NopSec, whose revenue has rocketed by 600% since its recent launch[98].

“Those who profit from war in materiel and machinery will be supplanted in time by those who profit in war from digital goods.”  — Dan Geer, Chief Information Security Officer, for the CIA’s In-Q-Tel [99]

However, it is not public-private partnerships that Eisenhower feared, but rather the deep-seated relations between policymakers, the military, and commercial venture, particularly where companies place themselves as objective experts and/or seek political “opportunity to sustain themselves”[100]. In the US, these boundaries are now so porous and convoluted, that one cannot see the wood for the trees. Sen. John Rockefeller’s former Chief of Staff, turned Cisco Systems cyber-security lobbyist, Jim Gottlieb, donated $19,000 the Democrat candidate[101]. Rockefeller, who famously sought retroactive immunity for AT&T’s warrantless wire-tapping[102], proposed the 2010 Cybersecurity Act which directed billions into cyber-security programmes, prompting Sen. Ron Wyden to proclaim that the US is witnessing:

“The development of an industry that profits from fear … creat[ing] a cyber-industrial-complex that has an interest in preserving the problem to which it is the solution” [103]

This is indicative of the intensifying and intricate nexus of relationships developing. The election of Rep. Jim Langevin was funded primary by General Dynamics and Raytheon. Deloitte and BAE were amongst the top five contributors to Rep. Mike McCaul. Both men co-chair the CSIS panel, alongside Lt. Gen. (Ret) Harry Raduege, now IT executive for Deloitte, and Scott Charney, Corporate Security Vice President at Microsoft[104]. These conflicts of interest cast severe doubts over CSIS’ objectivity, as well as the agendas the policies they influence may serve[105]. Inveterate relationships have also seen the revolving-door culture of employment and opportunity develop. Former NSA Director, Vice Adm. (Ret) Michael McConnell, became Director of Defense at Booz Allen Hamilton, before being reinstated as Director of National Intelligence by the Bush administration. McConnell then later rejoined Booz Allen as Head of Cybersecurity Business, prior to Booz Allen securing a $71.5 million cyber-security contract, totalling $189.4 million if extended to 2016[106]. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and BAE have all hired ex-military or security officials in cyber-security operations[107]. In 2012 Lockheed Martin won a $400 million contract facilitating the Pentagon’s Cyber Crime Center and Northrop Grumman secured a three-year, $189 million cyber DoD resilience contract[108].

Too Fast to Tie Down

Cyberspace has evolved from the auxiliary and novel, to the essential and omnipresent. Technological advancements have seen the internet develop from a research tool, to a ubiquitous framework transcending, connecting, and underpinning every facet of modern society. The post-territorial, nature of the internet has dissolved geopolitical boundaries, creating a borderless, open, but ultimately ungoverned, virtual region. The exponential rise of cyberspace within an incredibly short time frame, has meant growth has accelerated faster than government ability to control this emerging terrain.

Demographical shifts and the ascension of the global South as cyberspace’s prospective new majority, have brought new cultural, social, political and strategic priorities, underscoring real-world challenges to Western hegemonic dominance. These changes have aided shifting perceptions of what ‘cyberspace’ entails and represents, to the point that cyberspace is viewed as a domain in its own right, comparable to land, sea, air, and space. In the past, information fluidity and system connectivity took precedence over authentication, identity, and security. Consequentially, networked systems and platforms in energy, finance, transport, and communication sectors, have seen industrial control systems, critical infrastructure, and national capabilities reliant upon networks intended to be open, collaborative, and malleable. Unsurprisingly, this has led to a dynamic, complex, and rapidly developing threat landscape, with a spectrum of attacks mounted against individuals, governments, businesses, and industries, as malicious actors seek to exploit system vulnerabilities to further their political, criminal, or nefarious ends.

Within a geostrategic paradigm, cyber-attacks have had profound effect on: economic competitiveness and the loss of national advantage; technical attribution, plausible deniability, and diplomatic accountability; and governmental attention and political oratory paid to control, and security. Collectively, these factors have successfully redefined national goals and ambitions to reflect a strategically offensive stance, with discourses now firmly framed within the language of ‘pre-emptive’ action to protect interests. Reinforced by government narratives, and dramatically reported by an often uninformed and sensationalist media, several high-profile incidents, of varying seriousness and sophistication, have also brought cyber-security to the forefront of public consciousness. ‘Cyber-doom’ scenarios and apocalyptic prophecies have become commonplace, resulting in inappropriate and inane analogies. Despite lacking empirical evidence, cyber-attacks have been placed as equivalent to humanitarian crises, natural disasters, and even nuclear war.

Threat inflation has heralded a flurry of top-down legislative and budgetary accommodations regarding cyber-security, and the establishment of many new government entities with the sole focus of achieving geostrategic ambitions. These are mainly facilitated by military and intelligence entities who have a longstanding history of operating in the cyber domain. Enormous cyber-centric budgets have resulted in a burgeoning global industry, in which companies compete for government contracts and practitioners enjoy a revolving-door of work opportunities between government, military, and private industry. Consequentially, the cyber-industrial-complex has deeply ingrained relationships, resulting in clear conflicts of interest, and the erosion of objectivity. Individuals, companies, and governments whose business interests and careers are served by the maintenance of anxiety concerning cyber-security, convolute and inflate threats presenting their services as the solution.

Future Direction

Whilst online threats — stolen state secrets, intellectual property, competitive advantage and personal data — pose very real and difficult challenges for governments and private industry. The alarmist knee-jerk reaction to those threats and the societal fragility, the aggressive lobbying pursued, and the conflation of interests, raise serious concerns over larger, more calculated, commercial strategies and demonstrate how the cyber-industrial-complex has fanned the flames of a neoteric digital arms race.

This could result in an expensive Cold War-esque stand-off between those nation states at the forefront of the race for cyber dominance, namely America, Israel, Russia, Iran and China, escalating tensions further and eroding diplomatic and trade relations. This also risks coalescing military activity with subversion and economic espionage, subsumed under the catch-all banner of ‘cyber-war’. Secondly, absorption of talent and technology within the war machine, alongside increased asymmetric tactics by malicious actors circumventing attribution, will likely spawn new white and black-hat electronic markets engaged in the pernicious trading of cyber-arms, exploits, and botnet services, as increased labour divisions result in a modular business module[109]. Moreover, the actual security benefits achieved by extensive cyber-weapon investment may prove misplaced, weighed up against astronomical development costs. Target information must be so detailed and precise, that powerful weapons will only be of use against a solitary target, and for a single assault, before exploits ‘burn-out’. Furthermore, the speed technology evolves, compared to the time required to research, develop, and deploy a sophisticated cyber-weapon, means the shelf-life of weaponised code is short lived, risking weapon redundancy before deployment.

HG Wells’ optimism, expressed in The World Brain, had been replaced by pessimism and scepticism by the time he published Mind at the End of its Tether. In a similar manner, fears of a dystopian dependence upon technology, as well as enduring but largely erroneous anxieties about the brittleness of contemporary society, have led to a cyber paranoia and the merging of diagnostic and motivational discourses. The top-down militarisation of the fifth domain is hyperbolic and ineffective, discordant to the founding principles of cyberspace and at odds with prevailing W3 trends. Deterrence and protection likely to be more successful by resilience building, thorough upgrading, repairing, and modernising of systems, alongside encouraging decentralised, user-generated, organisation and governance of social arenas.

Detailed technical analysis; gauging vulnerabilities, developing technical solutions, and reconsidering software and systems architecture is critical. Adopting multi-disciplinary approaches to include analytical perspectives from political science, military and technology history, disaster sociology, and security studies, can also offer important insights, vital objectivity, and contextual grounding. This paper seeks to add to the burgeoning body of literature within this rapidly evolving field, and attempts to promote empirically grounded, research driven, and analytically sober debate with the mind to inform more conversant and commensurate cyber-security policymaking.

 

Photo Credit: Cristi eXPV

[toggle title= "Citations and Bibliography"]

 

Footnotes

[1] Shipman, (1997)

[2] Poggi, (2006)

[3] NCIX, (2011:i-iii)

[4] Shipman, (1997:16)

[5] ODO, (2012); Gralla, (2007:7)

[6] Stevens & Neumann, (2009:10)

[7] Crammer & Thrall, (2009)

[8] Greene et al (2003)

[9] Deibert & Crete-Nishihata, (2012)

[10] Bauman, (2000); Severs-Millard, (2012ac)

[11] Hilbert & López, (2011)

[12] IWS,.(2012)

[13] Alexander,.(2012)

[14] Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011:23)

[15] IWS,.(2012);-Knight,.(2003:15);-Ahlgren,.(2005);-Edensor,.(2001)

[16] Deibert,.(2011);-Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011:23);-Deibert-&-Crete-Nishihata,.(2012)

[17] Brito-&-Watkins,.(2011);-Lawson,.(2011);-Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011:26)

[18] IWS,.(2010a);-IWS,.(2012)

[19] ITU-(2010);-IWS,.(2010b);-UN-OHRLLS,.(2011)

[20] Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011:24)

[21] Goldsmith.&-Wu,.(2006:16-25)

[22] Sanderson-&.Fortin,.(2001)

[23] Renninger-&.Shumar,.(2002)

[24] Amit,.(2002:3)

[25] Glenny,.(2010)

[26]Hilbert,.&-López,.(2011);-Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011)

[27] ibid.

[28] Glenny,.(2010);-Deibert,.(2012);-Deibert-&-Crete-Nishihata,.(2012);-Lynn,.(2011)

[29] Villeneuve,.(2010);-Henderson,.(2008);-Andres,.(2013);-Alexander,.(2011)

[30] Lord-&-Sharp-et-al.(2011:25-40;165-182)

[31] Andres,.(2013)

[32] Detica,.(2012)

[33] Symantec-Corp.,.(2012)

[34] Alexander,.(2012)

[35] McAffe-Inc.,.(2012)

[36] Maass-&.Rajagopalan,.(2011)

[37] Wong,.(2008);-Lambert,.(2012:8);-Severs-Millard,.(2012c)

[38] ibid.

[39] Evans,.(2012)

[40] Rawnsley,.(2011)

[41] Severs-Millard,.(2012);-Clarke,.(2010);-Ottis,.(2010)

[42] Andres,.(2013);-Henderson,.(2008)

[43] NCIX,.(2011:1)

[44] Czosseck,.(2011)

[45] Andres,.(2013)

[46] ibid.

[47] Czosseck,.(2011)

[48] Gasparre,.(2008ab)

[49] Severs-Millard,.(2012)

[50] Cabinet-Office,.(2011)

[51] Cabinet-Office,.(2012)

[52] Cabinet-Office,.(2012: 26[4.9])

[53] NATO,.(2010)

[54] Department-of-Defense,.(2012a)

[55] Rosenberg,.(2012);-DoD,.(2012b);-DoD,.(2012c)

[56] Roberts,.(2012)

[57] Rid,.(2012b:5-6)

[58] Clayton,.(2011)

[59] ibid.

[60] Rid,.(2012a)

[61] Clausewitz,.(1832)

[62] Rid,.(2012);-Severs-Millard,.(2012)

[63] Paul,.(2010);-Naraine,.(2010);-Severs-Millard,.(2012);.Clinton,.(2011)

[64] Glaister,.(2009);-Markoff,.(2009)

[65] Zetterer,.(2012)

[66] Dunn-Cavelty,.(2007);-Dunn-Cavelty,.(2008)

[67] Brito-&-Watkins,.(2011)

[68] Clarke,.(2010)

[69] Panetta,.(2012);.Gross,-(2011);-Schneier,.(2010);-Meyer,.(2010)

[70] Dunn-Cavelty,.(2007);-Dunn-Cavelty,.(2008)

[71] Levin,.(2010)

[72] Rid,.(2012)

[73] Poulsen,.(2007)

[74] Ottis,.(2010:720)

[75] Suler,.(2004)

[76] Bauman,.(2000)

[77] Marx,.(1997:984)

[78] Crowley-&-Heyer,.(2006)

[79] Cohen,.(1972);-Crowley-&-Heyer,.(2006)

[80] Scmitt,.(2002)

[81] Bush,.(2002)

[82] Brito-&-Watkins,.(2011)

[83] CNN,.(2006)

[84] Massing,.(2004)

[85] Crammer-&-Thrall,.(2009)

[86] Clarke,.(2010:99)

[87] CSIS,.(2008: 15)

[88] Brito-&-Watkins,.(2011)

[89] Digital-History,.(2012)

[90] ibid.

[91] Deibert,.(2011)

[92] Walt,.(2010);-Stohl,.(2007);-Greenwald,-(2010)

[93] Priest-et-al.-(2010ab)

[94]Deltek,.(2011);-Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011)

[95] Gartner-(2012)

[96] Deibert-&-Rohozinski,.(2011:34);-Romm-&-Martinez,.(2012);-Flamm,.(2013);-Cole.&-Gorman,.(2009)

[97] Ricdela,.(2010)

[98] ibid.

[99]Grey,.(2008)

[100] John-Slye,-cited-in-Romm-&-Martinez,.(2012)

[101] FEC,.(2013)

[102] EFF,.(2005)

[103] Webster,.(2012)

[104] Carney,.(2011)

[105] Brito-&-Watkins,.(2011)

[106] Mclean,.(2011)

[107] Carney,.(2011)

[108] Romm.&-Martinez,.(2012)

[109] Sageman-et-al.(2008);-Rid-&-Mc-Burney,.(2012)

 

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Corruption

Corruption Threatens Libya’s Democratic Gains

Nothing could indicate a stronger commitment to fighting corruption and illegal practices than a comprehensive reform of Libya’s oil sector. Not only promoting an image of ‘responsible governance’, but improving the trust of Libyans in their nascent democratic institutions.

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This week, the Libyan Justice Minister Salah Margani urged the Attorney General to release the newspaper editor Amara Abdalla Al-Khatabi who had been arrested on the 19/12/2012 following the publication of a list containing the names of 84 allegedly corrupt judges.

Corruption is neither new phenomenon to Libya, nor unique to the country. However, comparing Libya to the rest of the world paints a grim picture. NATO estimated that Gaddafi and his associates had around $150 billion stashed abroad. In 2012, Libya ranked 160th amongst the 176 countries covered by Transparency International’s authoritative Corruption Perception Index. An improvement from the previous year (2011: 168/176), but still classifying Libya as a highly corrupt country.

The scourge of corruption has long been identified as a major problem by the new regime. As the leader of the National Transition Council (NTC), Mustapha Abdul Jalil had acknowledged in that it would take years to overcome the “heavy heritage’ of corruption in Libya. Yet, allegations of corruptions surfaced during the turbulent period of NTC rule.

Two scandals emerged in 2012, surrounding funds set up to compensate revolutionary fighters and their medical treatment abroad. Both funds were eventually halted due to widespread misuse and fraud.  Commenting on the  medical-fund scandal, former Interim Health Minister Fatima Hamroush clarified the prevailing attitudes succinctly when she said: “there was a fear from a dictator and that’s why order was kept without law basically. Law wasn’t applied, but there was order. Now there’s no order, everything’s a mess because there’s no fear”.

The scandals draw attention to two issues concerning corruption in Libya. Firstly, they point to the authorities’ ineptness in curtailing corruption. Secondly, they highlight the prevalence of a ‘culture of corruption’. The head of Libya’s Audit Bureau Ibrahim Belkheir acknowledged the widespread nature of the problem amongst Libyans:  As they are so used to it, it does not seem to be corruption to them.”

While it is worth noting that this was a turbulent time for the country, the issue of corruption and governmental will (or lack thereof) to tackle it remains in the headlines. On 18/01/2013 Prime Minister Ali Zeidan announced a number of measures taken by his administration to fight corruption. These included close cooperation with the Audit Bureau, the establishment of a central bidding committee to ensure transparency in contract awards, enlisting the help of the secret service in investigations, and new measures to prevent irregular recruitment of government employees. He also urged the Libyan people to play their part and to report those who violate the law.

Zeidan’s government appears committed to curbing corruption, at least on the surface. The Prime Minister’s 23/02/2013 surprise announcement about the sacking of a number of government officials allegedly involved in corruption. Details and names have yet to emerge, but Zeidan did stress that he “will not allow the misuse of public funds and I will take the strongest procedures against corruption”. Due to the lack of details or subsequent action, the statement should be seen as more than populist rhetoric. It should interpret as a warning addressed to all officials including those under investigations. Zeidan’s words have yet to turn to action as a recent whistle-blower case indicates.

The government seems unable or unwilling to address public accounts of alleged corruption. The deputy minister of Culture and Civil Society, Ms. Awatif al-Tushani, announced her resignation on 07/02/2013 citing alleged financial and administrative irregularities in the ministry. She claims to have raised such issues to the Prime Minister, but no action was taken. Furthermore, reports indicate that she was forced to resign and that her stand against dishonest practices at the ministry made her a target for personal harassment.

A more comprehensive approach needs to be taken by the Libyan Government. The International anti-corruption group Global Witness says that the new government should learn from the previous regime’s practices and implement reforms in Libya’s oil and gas sector. The strategic importance of the sector and the prevalence of shady practices in the industry make this the most important area for reform the new government.

Global Witness’ ‘blueprint for reforms’ (2012) should provide sufficient guidance to prevent large-scale corruption in the new Libya. Their recommendations include the promotion of transparency through the publication of all existing and future oil contracts, to work with international audit organisations to improve accounting and auditing practice within the National Oil Company so that revenues can be accurately measured and reported on. Furthermore, real commitment to transparency should be enshrined into Libya’s new constitution, and all current and future contracts should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

Nothing could indicate a stronger commitment to fighting corruption and illegal practices than a comprehensive reform in the oil sector. Such actions would not only promote an image of ‘responsible governance’, but would improve the trust of Libyans in their nascent democratic institutions. It would also facilitate a change in the entrenched attitudes about corruption at both the institutional and individual levels.

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eu flag

The European Union’s Short Legs

European defence ministers need to take a dispassionate look at what capabilities are duplicated by maintaining 26 separate national defence industries and consolidate appropriately.

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In a recent article in the Financial Times Philip Stephens argued that Europeans had discovered interventionism just as Americans were setting the idea aside. This came after the French air and ground campaign in Mali and the NATO air war in Libya. A similar line may be emerging on Syria, with the British and French leaders’ statements this week.

Aside from the Tigers and Typhoons, however, the most recent European interventions have had an Atlantic accent. In Mali the British provided a pair of C-17 transports; the Canadians lent another. But the majority of logistic support came from the United States.   The US Air Force used a wing of C-17s to transport most of the 3e Brigade Mécanisée to Bamako.  While US Africa Command spokesmen were publicly diplomatic, the Department of Defence privately intended to send the bill to Paris (the plans to charge the Élysée were quietly dropped). The US Air Force later agreed to a request to provide aerial tankers to support French combat aircraft.

In Libya, the Obama administration settled on the approach of “leading from behind“. At the outset of the war, US air power and precision strike destroyed Libyan air defences in short order. As later in Mali, US forces helped NATO allies carry out their campaign against ground targets mainly without direct combat contributions. But classing Libya as a model for European power projection would be incorrect. In its attempt to avoid civilian casualties, NATO used only precision-guided munitions. This caused severe problems for the contributing European air forces: Denmark ran out, and others ran low. The US had to resupply these allies from its stocks. The USAF and Navy continued to fly around a quarter of all missions, contributing the majority of surveillance, electronic warfare, and – as in Mali – refuelling.

These are not combat capabilities. But they are vital enablers of combat capabilities. In 2011, the US secretary of defence Robert Gates was caustic about the abilities of NATO members to sustain operations without the US.

The IISS Military Balance, updated this week, includes a section on comparative defence statistics. This presents the inventories of the UN Security Council permanent members and India for several categories of military equipment: force projection, manoeuvre, and so on. Aside from the unsubtle observation of the extent to which the US is quantitatively dominant, it is useful to look at how blocks of forces are distributed in each country. Table 1 presents some of these statistics for the UK and France combined and the US.

Table 1: Selected projection and ISTAR forces, UK/France and US
 

Heavy/medium transport

Tanker and multi- role  tanker/ transport

AWACS

Combat aircraft †

UK & France

78

49

13

497

US

790

528

104

3232

Source: IISS Military Balance 2013
† Includes both ground attack and air supremacy aircraft.US figure includes fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft.
 

In these logistics and support categories, the US maintains forces roughly ten times larger than the UK and France combined. The exception is in combat aircraft, where the UK and France have more than would be expected. The UK and France have a gap in the ratio of tankers to fighters compared to the US. The ratio for the US is just over six fighters per tanker, while just over ten British and French planes rely on each tanker.

That France in Mali and NATO in Libya had to rely on the US to support their air operations, both times in countries a handful of hours flight time away, is an indication of how far Europe as a continent is from being able to project force. If Mr Stephens in the FT was right and Libya and Mali are steps toward more joint European interventions, these gaps must be plugged. Given the continent’s sluggard economy, the idea that more money will be available to do so is unlikely. It would be better for European defence ministers to take a dispassionate look at what capabilities are duplicated by maintaining 26 separate national defence industries and consolidate appropriately. The collapse of the BAE and EADS merger in 2012 showed how difficult that will be.

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La serietà impossibile. Guida all’Italia d’oggi per turisti dello spirito

L’Italia si dimostra il luogo dell’Occidente dove è più dolce vivere, dove la tragedia non va mai in scena, dove s’è messa al bando ogni forma di mortifera pesanteur.

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[dropcap]P[/dropcap]aese storicamente incline alla farsa, l’Italia d’oggi tocca vette d’umorismo che nemmeno la gloriosa epoca della commedia dell’arte e del teatro di Goldoni, che insegnarono all’Europa un nuovo modo di ridere, riuscirono neppure a lambire. In Italia la serietà –il restare cioè integri, retti e pacati davanti ai più disparati accadimenti- è semplicemente impossibile: non vi è situazione che l’italiano non abbia occasione di ribaltare in farsa, in giuoco, in puro intrattenimento.

Terra del sole e del buon mangiare, affollata di donne sinuose che perdono ogni inibizione dopo la contrazione del matrimonio con rito cattolico, mai prima, e di uomini bravissimi a cantare e a fare all’amore, l’Italia si dimostra il luogo dell’Occidente dove è più dolce vivere, dove la tragedia non va mai in scena, dove s’è messa al bando ogni forma di mortifera pesanteur. Lieta di tanta sua levità, l’Italia coccola e nutre quest’immagine di sé della quale va particolarmente fiera. Al turista dello spirito si mostrano alcuni tra i più recenti episodi, testimonianza della giocondità e della profonda ilarità del popolo italiano.

Affranta da un lungo periodo di depressione economica ed esistenziale, causata dall’avvento al governo del Prof. Sen. Mario Monti e della sua squadraccia di anziani docenti polverosi fissati coll’affidabilità internazionale dell’Italia, alla prima occasione utile il Paese festosamente ha raggiunto i seggi elettorali, addobbati a festa nonostante le gravi mancanze di liquidità monetarie, formando lunghi cortei coloratissimi e rumorosissimi che si facevano sempre più nutriti a mano a mano che si attraversavano strade e piazze: l’Italia infatti è tra i Paesi europei ad avere il più alto tasso di partecipazione alle elezioni di tutto il mondo occidentale.

Dimentico dei torti subiti, il popolo italiano ha gioiosamente attribuito al capocomico Silvio B., guitto della provincia brianzola discendente da un grande istrione di Chioggia, ispiratore delle Baruffe chiozzotte, un plebiscito di voti reso non maggioritario solo da taluni guastafeste che leggono i giornali guerrafondai, grancassa dei padroni e dei poteri forti. Accanto a questo trionfo carnascialesco intonante tarantelle, saltarelle, pizzicarelle e antichi poemi rinascimentali inneggianti all’incertezza del domani, sfilava un più mesto ma non meno rumoroso corteo di “grillini” (in Italia sempre gli eponimi devono evocare il ridanciano e il grottesco). Costoro, a differenza dei seguaci di Silvio B., sono pericolosissimi: non perché siano più confusionari e caciaroni, ma perché, a differenza loro, questi si prendono dannatamente sul serio.

Sfilano coloratissimi e vocianti anche loro, ma hanno l’illusione di essere composti e intelligentissimi. Una tale illusione è data loro dagli elevati titoli di studio (alcuni hanno addirittura studiato in Texas) e da vaghi afflati rivoluzionari. Loro non sfilano, loro protestano, e attraverso questa nuova manifestazione dell’italico genio sono riusciti a fare di un’aula sorda e grigia il bivacco dei loro manipoli. In verità gli elettori, confusi, non avevano capito che solo alcuni sarebbero entrati in Parlamento, e anzi credevano che andando a votare si sarebbero conquistati ciascuno uno scranno: grande delusione quando sono venute fuori le facce degli “eletti”, sconosciute a tutti, soprattutto ai loro sostenitori.

Il più simpatico dei parlamentari grillini si è portato in aula un apriscatole e lo ha fotografato gioviale. Poi ci ha aperto una scatola di fagioli cannellini del discount e se l’è mangiata sul tavolo foderato di corame, prendendosi pure un rimprovero da un commesso in livrea.

Per onestà si dovrà anche dire che per cavalcare una simile ondata di caciaroni e confusionari patentati, anche il governo dei seriosi tecnici, nella persona del suo Ministro degli Affari Esteri, un bergamasco dall’aspetto solo apparentemente severo, vestiti i panni del suo concittadino Zanni, il servo astuto e trafficone della commedia dell’arte, ha deciso di dar prova della maestria teatrale dell’Italia recitando un pezzo da maestro, una scena madre internazionale: “Il ratto dei due marò, ovvero come ti distruggo la credibilità dell’Italia”. In un primo momento della recita si vede in scena Giulio Maria Terzi di Nonsisabenecosa vestire i panni cardinalizi di Richelieu, fare intrighi di palazzo, turlupinare il Primo Ministro con l’aiuto del suo fido notaro Balanzone in guisa di Ministro della Guerra e rapire alla lontana ed esotica India due preziosissimi esemplari di marò, lì illegalmente trattenuti. Applausi a scena aperta quando Zanni promette al Sultano (impersonato da un sempre bravissimo Kabir Bedi) di restituirgli al termine delle quattro settimane i due marò, e il credulone casca nella rete!

Nel secondo atto, Zanni, rivestiti i suoi panni di grisaglia ministeriale, platealmente annunzia che i marò sono suoi, e che il sultano non li rivedrà più. Stupore in sala. Ma dopo vicissitudini e capriole che non si raccontano per non svelare allo spettatore la trama, i due marò, con la soddisfazione di tutti, ritornano in India e lì restano per sempre. Cala il sipario, scroscio d’applausi.

Non sono pienamente convinto che una simile pièce possa trovare apprezzamento tra il più raffinato pubblico del resto d’Europa, ma insomma, fatti loro che credono ancora in sciocchezze rompipalle come la serietà, l’affidabilità e la dignità.

Lo straniero dello spirito che vorrà concludere il suo Grand Tour nello Stivale troverà qui pomodori messi a seccare allo splendido sole che ci benedice, mandolini e pizze ad ogni angolo di strada, calici di schietto vino rosso levati a garantirsi la benedizione di Dio sulle sue sorti.

Uno spettacolo irrinunciabile per chiunque voglia farsi qualche risata prima di tornare nel suo pallido Paese dalla fiorente economia, dall’industria sfavillante, dalla vita politica così pacificamente condotta. Marò che tristezza!

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Photo Credit: giorgiomartini.blogspot.it

Prishtina wake up

Kosovo Talks: Progress Now, Problems Tomorrow?

Clearly, Kosovo still touches raw nerves and remains central to former Yugoslav states’ extraordinarily complex relations.

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Prishtina wake up

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As an unprecedented agreement on the status of Kosovo seems within reach, to the relief of many observers, the details of the settlement seem likely to close some chapters (at least for now) and open a series of others. Belgrade’s continued and dogmatic refusal to recognise Kosovo’s independence has not stopped considerable concessions being made on the Serbs’ part. Indeed, the acceptance of Kosovar border authorities exemplifies a gradual move towards de facto recognition of the state. Perhaps tired by diplomatic stalemate, instability, and lost political and economic opportunities, the Serbian Prime Minister, Ivica Dačić, has made distinct headway in negotiating an agreement for a working relationship between Belgrade and Pristina.

One of the most notable features of a likely agreement is the proposal for Serb “municipalities” with considerable degrees of autonomy in northern parts of Kosovo, where Serbs constitute a concentrated majority. In exchange for this, Dačić has conceded political control over Kosovar Serbs to Pristina, and the dismantling of Belgrade-sponsored “parallel state institutions”. This marks an important trend in reaffirming Serbia’s effective withdrawal of formal power in any part of Kosovo, even if its influence in the north shall remain pronounced. Despite the usual, strong rhetoric continuing, Dačić’s delegation seems to be softly moving Serbia firmly away from a territorially based stance on Kosovo (even going so far as to suggest that it was a “lie” that Kosovo had ever belonged to Serbs).

Thus it is quite possible that this pattern of de facto recognition shall become the basis for a working relationship between Belgrade and Pristina for the foreseeable future. As long as the question of Kosovo retains such sensitive and provocative political capital, both electorally and internationally, it seems implausible that official recognition of Kosovo’s independence shall come from Belgrade (and, by extension, from Moscow) any time soon. Yet if an agreement on the status of Serbs and the recognition of state authorities can provide a positive working environment for Kosovo and the region, this de facto status could enjoy relative success.

However, questions must be asked regarding medium-term and long-term implications of such an agreement, as well as the immediate ramifications for the region more generally. Firstly, for how long would Kosovars be satisfied with the status of informal recognition? As much of an improvement as it could offer, Kosovo would still be without the benefits of formal recognition from the United Nations, with only 98 member states recognising full independence. The European Union cannot unanimously give Kosovo its support, either; Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus have withheld full recognition for a variety of political reasons. Although the history of NATO action and sustained United Nations oversight gives a valuable level of security, it may not be sufficient to satiate Kosovars indefinitely. Although it is problematic to portray the EU membership as an irresistible attraction, it has proven to have considerable political impetus in the Balkans (not least in keeping dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina alive in previous years). Kosovo would surely be disadvantaged further if the majority of its neighbours were to ascend to membership (a foreseeable eventuality in the next decade), while Kosovo’s accession was hampered by lack of formal recognition.

Furthermore, following the probability of adopting the Serb municipalities model, minority groups in other states almost instantly raised demands for similar solutions in their own cases. Perhaps most problematically for Belgrade, ethnic Albanians in parts of southern Serbia have called for autonomous municipalities mirroring those in northern Kosovo. Some have even mooted the possibility of outright territory and population exchanges as a solution, although this does not seem to have been seriously considered at talks. It also comes at a time of unease in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the President of Republika Srpska (the Bosnian Serb entity), Milorad Dodik, recently called for autonomous status for the municipalities where Serbs constitute a majority within the Bosnian Croat and Bosniak Federation. Although the corresponding authorities have rebuffed such claims, it would likely become increasingly difficult to mollify minority groups were such disparities in policy to be realised.

Clearly, Kosovo still touches raw nerves and remains central to former Yugoslav states’ extraordinarily complex relations. Thus, while any progress in mediating tensions and easing Kosovo’s political and economic worries should be welcomed (Kosovo still has amongst the lowest GDP-PPP in the region), any agreement that may be soon forthcoming is unlikely to settle the web of issues once and for all.

N.B. Since last update of the page relating to number of states recognising Kosovo, Dominica and Pakistan have added their recognition, bringing the total to 98.

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Photo Credit: Agroni

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Nothing New in Israeli Politics

The Palestinian question cannot be shunned by Israel’s political class and by its Jewish electorate since it is part and parcel of Israel’s essence. No “new” coalition can change this fundamental fact.

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Although almost two months have passed since Israeli citizens have cast their vote to elect the 19th Knesset, a government is yet to be formed.

In the meantime, there are three considerations to be made. The first one regards Netanyahu’s claim that the main issue on which his government will focus will be “socioeconomic”. In the summer of 2011 tens of thousands of Israelis protested against austerity measures and the rising price of housing. The opposition seized the opportunity and accused the Netanyahu government of mismanaging the economy and finance of the country. Therefore Netanyahu pledged to make it his priority to see to it that no Israeli will ever again have to suffer financial angst.

There are two hidden aspects to the “socioeconomic” agenda. Firstly, Netanyahu believes that by focusing on it he will be able to focus solely on “domestic” issues. That is, he will be able to cast aside, at least for a while, anything which is “foreign”. By “foreign” Netanyahu means one thing and one thing only: the stagnation of the peace process with the Palestinians due to settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Thus it is not a sincere desire to ease Israeli citizens’ lives that drives the Netanyahu to focus on the “domestic socioeconomic” issue but rather a desire to to postpone the creation of a Palestinian state.

The second hidden aspect is the fact that the “socioeconomic” situation which needs to be ameliorated pertains to Jewish Israeli citizens and not to all Israeli citizens. Indeed, the “socioeconomic” status of the Arab population has been neglected up to the point of asking whether Israel is a democracy at all. No wonder less than half of the Arab population was expected to vote.

The second consideration concerns the fact that any “new” coalition will not be that new after all since it will either be constituted by political parties which are not sincere about peace or by political parties which, while professing to be part of the “peace camp,” have not won enough seats to make a real difference.

The two possible heavyweight candidates to join Netanyahu are Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home), led by Naftali Bennet, a software tycoon, who has made explicit his intent of expanding settlement construction and to annex Area C of the West Bank, equivalent to 61% of the territory (indeed, Netanyahu himself pledged not to dismantle any settlements); and Yesh Atid, a centrist political party founded by Yair Lapid, a former journalist and TV presenter, who has delivered his main electoral speech at the University of Ariel, arguably the biggest and most controversial settlement in the West Bank. Mr. Lapid has also stated that Jerusalem must remain undivided (read: Israeli).

The political parties which seem genuinely interested in the peace process are Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah which won a mere 5% of the votes; Meretz also at 5% and Kadima at 2%. The three Arab-Israeli parties combined did not even make it to 10%.

Since settlement construction is deemed illegal under international law, it can be safely stated that the “new” government will be composed of criminal elements. The international community should condemn ferociously the policies of these political parties and make it clear that Netanyahu’s alliance with them is frowned upon. Alas, the only reaction seen so far was the usual hand tapping by the British Foreign secretary William Hague.

The previous two brief reflections lead me to the third and final one which perhaps is the most important: governments are not formed ex nihilo, they are elected by the people. Two things follow from this. Firstly, the policies which are implemented or which the elected parties pledge to implement reflect the values of the people voting for those same parties. Therefore the underlying problem is not so much that there are a few racist individuals in Israel’s political arena but that a great part, if not a majority, of the Israeli public shares these racist values and wishes for them to be implemented.

Secondly, and following the above remark, the Israeli public shares the responsibility for racist policies being implemented against the native Arab population. We are accustomed to aim criticisms at governments and other political institutions for injustices perpetrated by nations. The fact of the matter is, though, that in Israel people do elect governments and therefore share responsibility. Change will not come by putting pressure on the political establishment but only once the Israeli institutions will be reformed in such a way as to create a radical shift in the Jewish Israeli public’s values.

The Palestinian question cannot be shunned by Israel’s political class and by its Jewish electorate since it is part and parcel of Israel’s essence. No “new” coalition can change this fundamental fact.

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Photo Credit: Lilachd

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Terrorismo? Quale terrorismo? Come la comunicazione aggrava il problema della definizione

Perché è così difficile definire il terrorismo?

{Dipartimento di Studi Strategici (War Studies), King’s College London}

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]rovare una definizione per la parola ‘terrorismo’ è di certo uno dei rompicapi più impegnativi dell’epoca moderna. Tale fenomeno si manifesta all’interno di un complesso mosaico di problematiche che influiscono sul breve tempo che si ha a disposizione per poterlo valutare. Sebbene sia diventato elemento cruciale della maggior parte delle agende politiche già all’indomani dell’11 Settembre, ancora non vi è un consenso unanime circa la sua definizione. Per citare un esempio, nel secondo dibattito presidenziale Mitt Romney ha criticato aspramente il presidente Obama per non aver definito l’attacco all’Ambasciata degli Stati Uniti a Bengasi un attentato terroristico, cosa che il Presidente in carica ha fatto solo due settimane dopo lo stesso.  In maniera simile, il leader libico ad interim ha definito la vicenda come un atto di violenza criminale. I politici prima, e i media poi, si sono dimostrati riluttanti, imprecisi e vaghi nel voler far rientrare questi avvenimenti sotto l’etichetta di atti di natura terrorista. Il presente saggio presenterà dunque una parte di quello che è il dibattito intorno al problema della definizione, sebbene alcune questioni saranno omesse. Tuttavia poiché il terrorismo è strettamente collegato a motivazioni di carattere politico e a ragioni retoriche, che vanno di pari passo con l’evoluzione della comunicazione moderna, è comprensibile la difficoltà nel trovare una definizione univoca al concetto.

Alcune definizioni

Il primo passo da compiere è capire perché è così importante fornire una definizione del termine. A partire dall’11 Settembre, la parola ‘terrorismo’ è entrata a far parte sempre di più del lessico della società moderna, tanto da rievocare nell’immaginario collettivo immagini alquanto violente, di sacrificio e catastrofe. Sappiamo tuttavia comprendere ciò che è davvero il terrorismo? Molti accademici e professionisti si cimentano costantemente nella ricerca di una definizione e, allo stesso tempo, rifiutano quelle già esistenti. Walter Laqueur, che è forse il più illustre della categoria, sostiene che una definizione “non esiste e non la si troverà in un prossimo futuro.” Allo stesso modo, Jeremy Waldon e George Fletcher, in opere separate, riconoscono che ci sono troppe domande ma non risposte sufficienti. Entrambi sembrano lontani da una reale definizione e credono piuttosto che il miglior modo per capire cosa sia il terrorismo sia quello di assistere a una delle sue manifestazioni.

Anche l’Ambasciatore britannico alle Nazioni Unite pare essere sulla stessa linea d’onda. In un discorso successivo all’11 Settembre ha evitato di darne una definizione affermando, “ci dobbiamo concentrare su questo concetto: il terrorismo è il terrorismo … ciò che appare, puzza e uccide come il terrorismo è solo terrorismo.” Tuttavia, se il terrorismo viene considerato come una questione transnazionale, e non all’interno di un paradigma Stato-centrico, sostenere che ogni attacco terroristico presenti determinate caratteristiche che sono sempre evidenti, non solo è banale, ma va a discapito di ogni tentativo di progettare una strategia antiterrorista vincente.  Se, dunque, il terrorismo è una questione globale che interessa diversi Paesi, la sua definizione è di vitale importanza per capirlo e, infine, combatterlo.

È opportuno pensare che la lotta al terrorismo necessiti di una definizione, per quanto sia un’impresa molto ardua. Alex Schmid, il cui pensiero è diventato una pietra miliare all’interno del dibattito definitorio, ha posto l’accento sui “metodi derivati dall’ansia” che sono inflitti alle vittime “generalmente scelte… (bersagli di opportunità).” Un particolare interessante è che egli annovera gli attori statali all’interno della sua definizione e quindi aumenta la necessità di una classificazione in quanto non separa chi o che cosa commette gli atti di natura terrorista. In una risposta diretta a Schmid, Weinberg non include elementi di carattere psicologico all’interno della sua definizione ma pone bensì la politica come ragione principale dietro la strategia terroristica. Allo stesso modo Bruce Hoffman sostiene l’importanza delle motivazioni di carattere politico e le considera lo strumento principale per comprendere il modus operandi dei terroristi. Tuttavia, motivare che un gruppo terrorista agisca esclusivamente per ragioni politiche chiarisce solo un aspetto della questione, così come se si ignorano le motivazioni religiose o ideologiche l’ambito di analisi ne risulterà limitato. John Horgan si allontana dall’idea di Weinberg, mettendo l’accento sull’uso psicologico del ‘terrore’ che, nelle sue parole, “rivela una parte del mistero” nella comprensione del terrorismo.

 L’uso del terrore è di vitale importanza per valutare un attacco perché, come sostiene John Mueller, rompe il codice morale penale rispettato da quasi tutte le popolazioni. Pertanto, la comprensione delle potenziali tattiche e dei target individuati non solo aiuta a polarizzare attori statali e non-statali, ma permette anche una migliore comprensione dei potenziali obiettivi di un gruppo. Non vi può essere una definizione univoca ed esclusiva, ed è appropriato sostenere che il dibattito accademico aggiunge maggiore incertezza alla definizione di terrorismo. In ogni caso, se proprio si volesse utilizzare un singolo concetto esplicativo di terrorismo, questo includerebbe inevitabilmente una serie di parametri che siano in grado di valutare l’attività terroristica.

L’uso improprio del termine ‘terrorismo’

L’ambiguità del mondo accademico su come interpretare le manifestazioni del terrorismo, contribuisce a lasciare irrisolto il problema concettuale. Generalmente, il modo in cui gli attori politici e personalità influenti utilizzano tale termine, ha una valenza molto più ampia, che distoglie dal vero significato e dall’uso del sostantivo ‘terrorismo’. All’interno della sua opera provocatoria, ‘Intrappolati in una Guerra al Terrore’, Ian Lustick affronta l’argomento  ponendo l’accento su come il terrorismo è diventato il fondamento cruciale della politica di Bush. I discorsi pregni di sentimenti patriottici che rimandavano a nostalgiche emozioni di guerra, hanno aiutato a legittimare le decisioni politiche dell’ex Presidente, e a fuorviare la percezione della gente da ciò che effettivamente è il terrorismo. Si trova riscontro di quanto detto negli svariati errori commessi dall’amministrazione Bush nel tentativo di combattere una ‘guerra al terrore’.

Altrettanta confusione è riscontrata nel momento in cui il terrorismo è analizzato, o quando un attacco pare enucleare tutte ‘le caratteristiche e le sensazioni (suscitate da un atto) di terrorismo’: è in questo momento che si ricorre al termine per eludere la mancanza di consenso unanime sulla natura di un atto così violento. Le semplificazioni imposte a livello governativo sono inesorabilmente e ulteriormente aggravate dall’uso sistematico di un “allarmismo apocalittico”, in cui viene impiegata una soffocante varietà di  tattiche intimidatorie – in particolar modo negli Stati Uniti. Ad esempio, la politica concernente la Homeland Security (attività di sicurezza interna contro il terrorismo, NdT) non solo descrive solo la minaccia di terroristi in possesso di armi CBRN, ma anche la loro capacità di utilizzare queste stesse armi “da casa all’estero”. Dichiarazioni imprecise e approssimative sembrano celare altre motivazioni. Fred Kaplan ha sostenuto sulle pagine del The Guardian che “le politiche messe in atto riscuotono il massimo sostegno se sono legate alla guerra al terrorismo”. Di conseguenza, se si adopera il terrorismo in correlazione ad altri argomenti di natura politica, al fine di acquisire il sostegno dell’opinione pubblica, un problema di ordine metodologico sorge inevitabilmente: è possibile separare la realtà dalla finzione ed essere finalmente in grado di fornire una definizione precisa dell’oggetto in questione?

Il ruolo esclusivo della comunicazione

La manipolazione interpretativa dei governi sulla natura del terrorismo è aggravata dallo sviluppo di fenomeni legati alla globalizzazione e al conseguente sviluppo tecnologico che, parafrasando Manuel Castells, ha creato un “nuovo spazio di comunicazione” nei centri di potere. La diffusione di alcune idee politiche presso popolazioni e territori precedentemente estranei e geograficamente distanti, e le accresciute possibilità di comunicazione tra le comunità emigrate con la propria madrepatria, ha creato una complessa dicotomia bollata da Sir Richards come “rete globale di rivendicazioni.” La rapida crescita della tecnologia e l’esplosione dei social media hanno trasformato pareri e opinioni in uno spazio informativo virtuale. Questo permette alle persone di muoversi “rapidamente e senza fili” all’interno di un mondo virtuale. David Betz ha correttamente definito questo fenomeno come il Web 2.0, in cui tutti i vettori della società interagiscono simultaneamente e, di conseguenza, il pubblico non ricopre più il ruolo di spettatore passivo ma rappresenta invece la componente attiva del mondo dell’informazione.

Le tecnologie moderne hanno dunque fornito una potentissima piattaforma per attuare una comunicazione orizzontale attraverso un arcipelago di confini nazionali e internazionali. Se il messaggio è incorretto o fuorviante può scatenare conseguenze imprevedibili, dal momento che fornisce informazioni errate ad un’intera comunità. A tal proposito, i messaggi politici stanno diventando sempre più messaggi mediatici e hanno l’immediata capacità di influenzare tutti i campi della società. D’altro canto, la tecnologia moderna permette ai cittadini la possibilità non solo di eludere i controlli statali tradizionali, ma anche di trasmettere informazioni false. Questo è ben noto all’interno della relazione sulla tecnologia del Generale David Richards nella quale sostiene che la comunicazione moderna “si situa ben oltre la capacità dello Stato di esercitare il proprio controllo senza minacciare tutte le altre funzioni di quello stesso Stato.” Ciò nonostante, tale affermazione è vera in entrambi i sensi e pertanto i governi sono in grado di esercitare un certo grado di autonomia nell’uso dei processi mediatici moderni. Pertanto, come sostiene David Kilcullen, i fini e i mezzi che conducono allo sviluppo di fonti d’informazione si caratterizzano per una scarsa trasparenza che rende molto difficile distinguere l’origine o l’affidabilità delle fonti stesse.

Difatti, un messaggio del governo diventa immediatamente l’input per l’elaborazione dei messaggi da parte dei media, e il relativo output ricopre un ruolo cruciale nel plasmarne la definizione. Se anche il terrorismo è sottoposto a questi filtri di comunicazione, va da sé che il risultato sarà un caleidoscopico insieme di definizioni. Tali definizioni, a loro volta, vengono poi servite all’opinione pubblica, ai leader e ai soliti stereotipi sulla politica estera. A tale proposito John Horgan sostiene che per analizzare il terrorismo nel suo insieme di definizioni è necessario discostarsi dai media. Tuttavia, ottenere un tale distacco appare molto difficile poiché i governi sono i primi attori che sempre più spesso ricorrono ad un utilizzo del termine in un contesto erroneo, con i media pronti ad associarlo a questioni di carattere politico.

Conclusioni

Questo questo saggio ha preso in considerazione una varietà di fonti ma non ha proposto in alcun modo una conclusione esaustiva sul dibattito concernente il problema della definizione. Si è voluto porre l’accento sul ruolo del governo statunitense per via del suo compito esclusivo nella lotta al terrorismo, in quanto le indagini portate avanti in altri Paesi avrebbero potuto generare conclusioni molto diverse. Ad ogni modo, la cattiva informazione imposta dai governi potrebbe riferirsi ad ambiti diversi della vita di tutti i giorni, e le conseguenze della stessa sono ulteriormente aggravate dalle modalità della comunicazione moderna. In ultima analisi, questo rende ancor più arduo il tentativo di fornire una definizione precisa di terrorismo.

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Saggio tradotto da: Valentina Mecca

Articolo originale: Terrorism is Terrorism? How Communication Exacerbates the Definitional Problem

Photo Credit: bixentro

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Reporting the Steubenville Rape Case

If we want to change rape culture, media coverage needs to change too.

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On the night of 11th of August 2012, in Steubenville, Ohio, a 16 year old girl, too drunk to resist, was dragged from party to party and repeatedly raped over a period of hours by two 16 year old boys before being dumped on a lawn and urinated on. Photos and videos of her sexual assault were taken and shared online. A video of one of the perpetrators released online by hacker group Anonymous in December 2012 showed him referring to this 16 year old girl as ‘deader than Trayvon Martin’ and ‘deader than OJ’s wife’. On Sunday, 17th March 2013, these boys were found guilty.

One would hope, then, that the reporting of this case would focus on the search for justice for this young girl who has had her life devastated by her rape and the subsequent trial. Since her rape was reported to police by her parents, this girl has lost her friends, been ostracised by her community and subjected to intimidation and death threats. On the 19th March, two teenage girls were arrested and charged with menacing the victim through Facebook and Twitter. Yet from the manner in which the main news outlets in the United States have reported on the trial and subsequent guilty verdict, you would not know this.

Instead, if you had watched CNN’s report from the day the verdict was handed down, you would know that the perpetrators of this attack were ‘star football players’, two young men with ‘promising futures’, ‘very good students’, whose lives had now fallen apart. The reporter stated that ‘alcohol was a huge part in this’, and wanted to know ‘what the lasting effect’ on two young men would be of being found guilty of rape in a juvenile court, describing the difficulty of watching the two sobbing as the verdict was read.

Had you watched ABC News, NBC, or USA Today, or read reports from the Associated Press or Yahoo News, you would have found more of the same – mentions of the boys’ ‘promising football careers’, ‘the pride of Steubenville’, with the victim described as ‘drunken’ and ‘intoxicated’. All reports gave the impression that these boys lives had been ruined, all promise ended, as soon as the guilty verdict was handed down. The victim of the assault was barely awarded a mention amongst the laments for the lives of these two boys. One comment from ABC’s show ‘20/20’ described the juvenile trial as ‘a cautionary tale for teenagers living in today’s digital world’ – essentially saying that it’s okay to rape, just don’t take photos whilst you do it.

If anyone needed an example of the prominence of rape culture in our society, the Steubenville case is it. It can be found in almost every aspect of the case – in the photos taken during the attack and the videos made afterward by those who did it, as mementos and a celebration of their own viciousness; in the attempted cover-up by leading figures in the town (the attempted cover-up will now be subject to a Grand Jury investigation); in the shaming and shunning of the victim; in the reporting of the trial, which seemed to say that boys shouldn’t rape not because it is wrong, because women are not pieces of meat to be dragged around as playthings but as people who should be respected, but because they might endanger their promising futures; but primarily in the fact that these boys apparently didn’t think that what they were doing is wrong, that it was normal, that plenty of people would do the same.

Is it any wonder, with a culture such as this, that more victims of rape don’t come forward, and that more rapes aren’t prosecuted? In Ireland, only 30% of those who approached the Rape Crisis Network went to the police. Between 2003 and 2009, 70% of rape cases allowed the defence to question the victim’s sexual history. 47% of cases resulted in acquittal. In the U.S., rape is the only crime in which the level of inebriation of the victim is taken into account as a mitigating factor. Of every one hundred reported rapes, only nine will be prosecuted, with just five resulting in felony convictions. An estimated 90,000 women and 10,000 men are raped in the United States every year. In the United Kingdom, the attrition rate for rape cases is 12%, with a 58% conviction rate.

The recent ‘Don’t Be That Guy’ campaign, which originated in Alberta, Canada, and has been seen in a number of universities in the UK and Ireland carries the message ‘just because she isn’t saying no, doesn’t mean she’s saying yes’. This is something that needs a wider than university level audience. Everyone needs to be aware that silence does not equal consent, and rape is wrong. To most people, this is obvious – but unfortunately, for others, it is not. If we want to change rape culture, media coverage needs to change too.

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Photo Credit: Muffet

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Interviste 2#: Le elezioni italiane secondo Roberto D’Alimonte

Quel che è certo è che se dovessimo votare ancora una volta con il porcellum, sarebbe necessario un profondo stravolgimento dei risultati di queste elezioni per potere avere un vincitore. Il grave rischio per il Paese è di non riuscire ad avere un governo stabile nemmeno dopo un’altra tornata elettorale.

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Buongiorno Professore, grazie per avere accettato questo incontro. Cominciamo subito: ormai quasi un mese fa le elezioni politiche. Adesso che è passata un po’ di acqua sotto i ponti, quali sono le prime riflessioni che Le vengono alla mente?

Beh, con il rischio di essere scontato, il successo registrato dal M5S è certamente l’elemento di maggiore rilievo. Non era mai successo nelle democrazie occidentali che un partito alle sue prime elezioni politiche raggiungesse il 25% dei voti, a meno che non fossero le prime elezioni del regime democratico. L’altro elemento fondamentale, che ha reso possibile un simile risultato per il M5S, è che queste elezioni sono state caratterizzate da una volatilità straordinaria, analoga a quella registrata fra le politiche del 1992 e del 1994, quando però era collassato il precedente sistema dei partiti. Significa che siamo chiaramente al centro di una fase di de-allineamento, nella quale molti elettori hanno abbandonato le precedenti affiliazioni di partito e di schieramento.

Così le due coalizioni principali hanno perso, rispetto al 2008, oltre 11 milioni di voti: Berlusconi è sceso dai 17 milioni di voti di cinque anni fa a meno di dieci; Bersani ha superato di un soffio quota 10 milioni di voti, ma comunque distante dai quasi 14 di Veltroni. Questo ha comportato il superamento dell’assetto bipolare del nostro sistema politico, che oggi appare imperniato su tre poli e mezzo. Il tempo dirà se questo assetto si consoliderà o meno.

Ma come è stato possibile un simile risultato? Per quasi tre mesi, dalla sua vittoria alle primarie su Renzi, Bersani è stato considerato saldamente in vantaggio da tutti i sondaggi. Anche quelli effettuati durante il black-out e non pubblicati, continuavano a vedere in testa il centrosinistra, eppure..

I sondaggi hanno clamorosamente fallito. E questo deve aprire una riflessione critica su questo strumento. Ciò premesso, devo sottolineare la difficoltà di condurre sondaggi in una fase caratterizzata da così profondi mutamenti in cui viene a mancare un modello analitico su cui basarsi. Basti pensare a come Grillo abbia saputo pescare trasversalmente alle tradizionali zone politiche. Se guardiamo alla geografia dei suoi successi, notiamo come siano sparsi fra la Sicilia (ex granaio della Dc e poi dei partiti di Berlusconi), alcune provincie periferiche della zona rossa (come nelle Marche), il nord-est, dove era particolarmente marcata la subcultura bianca di ispirazione cattolica e dove poi esplose la Lega, e poi ancora nel Lazio, in Liguria e in Sardegna.

È chiaro che venendo a mancare i fondamentali punti di riferimento diventa difficile stimare il comportamento di 47 milioni di individui a partire da campioni, che, per quanto numerosi, non superano le due-tremila unità. Inoltre, proprio la presenza di sondaggi favorevoli al centrosinistra, può aver determinato un meccanismo per cui una parte degli elettori del Pd hanno preferito esprimere un voto di protesta a favore di Grillo nella convinzione che non producesse un cambiamento dell’esito previsto..

Si è insediato il nuovo Parlamento: le prime prove cui è stato chiamato, le elezioni dei presidenti di assemblea, hanno rivelato tutte le difficoltà del Pd nel trovare sponde in aula. Molti prevedono che la legislatura non raggiungerà la sua scadenza naturale nel 2018: Lei che cosa pensa?

È certo, anche se non si può dire al momento se la legislatura durerà poche settimane, qualche mese o un anno. Credo che alla fine il tentativo di Bersani di formare un governo di minoranza non avrà successo. E nel caso in cui si formasse un governo di larghe intese non durerà a lungo.

Ecco, se si dovessero tenere elezioni in tempi brevi, secondo Lei, cosa potrebbe accadere?

Questa è davvero una domanda da un milione di dollari. Dipenderà dal sistema elettorale (se cambierà o neo) e dalla nuova offerta politica che al momento è imprevedibile. Chi sarà il candidato del Pd? Ci sarà ancora una lista Monti? E Berlusconi sarà ancora il leader del centrodestra? Tutte domande cui è impossibile rispondere ora. E poi c’è il M5S. Riuscirà a confermare i propri voti? O potrà andare ancora meglio? Vi sono buone ragioni per sostenere le diverse tesi. Qualche elettore che lo ha votato per lanciare un messaggio ai suoi, nella convinzione che comunque i giochi fossero fatti, potrebbe tornare all’ovile. D’altro canto la sua constatata forza, il fatto di essere ormai un contendente concreto per la vittoria, lo rendono ancor più appetibile agli occhi di elettori che finora non lo avevano considerato nel timore di disperdere il proprio voto.

Fare una previsione oggi è davvero azzardato. Quel che è certo è che se dovessimo votare ancora una volta con il porcellum, sarebbe necessario un profondo stravolgimento dei risultati di queste elezioni per potere avere un vincitore. In Grecia è bastata la concentrazione su due opzioni principali per avere una maggioranza; da noi, con la lotteria dei premi regionali al Senato, sarebbe necessaria la forte crescita su tutto il territorio nazionale di uno dei tre poli, che gli consenta di vincere in quasi tutte le regioni… Fantasia… Il grave rischio per il Paese è di non riuscire ad avere un governo stabile nemmeno dopo un’altra tornata elettorale.

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Roberto D’Alimonte, Direttore del Centro Italiano Studi Elettorali, è professore ordinario nella Facoltà di Scienze Politiche della LUISS Guido Carli, dove insegna Sistema Politico Italiano. Dal 1974 fino al 2009 ha insegnato presso la Facoltà di Scienze Politiche “Cesare Alfieri” della Università degli Studi di Firenze. Ha insegnato come visiting professor nelle Università di Yale e Stanford. Tra le sue pubblicazioni ci sono articoli apparsi su West European Politics, Party Politics, oltre che sulle principali riviste scientifiche italiane. È editorialista de IlSole24Ore.

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Photo Credit: LUISS Guido Carli

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Francesco tra simboli, fede e geopolitica

Il Vaticano è un luogo in cui la storia trascorre ad un ritmo diverso rispetto al resto del mondo. La sua concezione temporale non è stata intaccata dalla rivoluzione francese ed il suo sovrano regna in maniera assoluta.

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[dropcap]L’[/dropcap] elezione di Jorge Mario Bergoglio al soglio pontificio segna indubbiamente una cesura storica con il passato ed apre un futuro all’insegna dell’incertezza e della debolezza, mitigate tuttavia dalla profusione di speranza che si è vissuta quando il nuovo Pontefice si è affacciato per la prima volta su piazza San Pietro.

Quel che è immediatamente emerso è stata una miriade di simboli aventi tutti lo stesso messaggio: la Chiesa sarà distinta. Primo fra tutti è il nome di Francesco, un macigno che nessuno prima di Bergoglio, in duemila anni di cristianità, ha voluto sostenere. Lo sfarzo e l’ostentazione di potere che regna tra le mura paoline mal si conciliano con la dottrina della povertà e dell’alienazione di quel che si possiede in favore dei più poveri. Troppe volte negli ultimi decenni la Chiesa è stata passibile di critiche, soprattutto in materia finanziaria, lasciando che lo IOR diventasse una banca opaca, aperta a traffici di fondi che hanno condotto agli scandali che non possono che essere stati decisivi nella rinuncia di Benedetto XVI. Oltre al nome, i simboli si moltiplicano. Bergoglio parla di sé come di un vescovo, che chiede che siano i fedeli a benedirlo: in un solo gesto pone gli uomini in contatto con Dio, affinché proteggano un semplice servitore. Uno in più. E poi, al collo Francesco I porta una croce di ferro, come a dire che l’ostentazione dovrà cedere il passo alla carità.

Molto più mondane, invece, sembrano le dimensioni geopolitiche della scelta dei cardinali. Bergoglio, come Woytila – sebbene in circostanze completamente differenti –, succede a Pietro forte della sua origine geografica. L’America Latina è il continente della rinascita cattolica: lì si concentrano la maggioranza dei credenti ed è lì, tra regimi semi-autoritari (o, più diplomaticamente, professanti una forma di neo-costituzionalismo), povertà e segnali di crescita economica che soggiacciono gli elementi necessari affinché il cattolicesimo possa ritrovare lo slancio necessario per riaffermare il proprio primato morale, politico e religioso sulla scena mondiale. Non a caso la prossima Giornata Mondiale della Gioventù è da tempo prevista a Rio de Janeiro. Dall’America Latina riparte, dunque, una improcrastinabile opera di ri-evangelizzazione che col tempo dovrà imporsi in Africa e in Europa: come ha già affermato il pontefice d’ora in poi bisognerà “camminare, edificare, confessare”.

Francesco ha davanti a sé un panorama di sfide tanto difficile quanto avvincente: dovrà rinobilitare l’immagine della Chiesa agli occhi del mondo. Le aspettative registrate tra i fedeli sembrano confermare la volontà di un cambiamento all’insegna della trasparenza, che allontani la Chiesa dalle questioni finanziarie che ne hanno sconvolto la storia recente e che si scagli in maniera chiara ed inequivocabile contro chi si macchia di crimini quali la pedofilia. Al di là degli aspetti terreni, si solleva tra la comunità dei credenti una voglia di rinnovamento materiale della curia, auspicando un’apertura verso un maggior ruolo delle donne, una rimozione dei pregiudizi verso l’omosessualità e l’abbandono di posizioni considerate eccessivamente conservatrici verso gli strumenti di contraccezione.

Chi crede ad una rivoluzione dottrinale è probabilmente destinato ad illudersi. La Chiesa ha dimostrato nei secoli che è in grado di cambiare e rinnovarsi. Ad una sola condizione però: il tempo. Il Vaticano è un luogo in cui la storia trascorre ad un ritmo diverso rispetto al resto del mondo. La sua concezione temporale non è stata intaccata dalla rivoluzione francese ed il suo sovrano regna in maniera assoluta. Lo stesso accade sul versante spirituale: per abbracciare quei convincimenti che tra i fedeli sono già solidi, le gerarchie ecclesiastiche hanno bisogno di impulsi e di passaggi che chissà sfuggano agli occhi degli osservatori. D’ora in poi, tuttavia, inizia una nuova concezione nella guida dei cattolici. D’ora in poi la Chiesa è nelle mani di Francesco.

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Photo Credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales)

Vatican

Power Of The Pope

Following the election of Cardinal Bergoglio to the papacy as Pope Francis the First it had me wondering, what sort of power for change will he truly have? As we all probably know, the Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the approximately 1.2 billion individuals who categorize themselves as Catholics. The election of a South American Cardinal has been considered by some as an effort by the Church to tap into some of the fastest growing Catholic populations and his membership in the Jesuit order and modest lifestyle could signal that the church may dedicate some its vast wealth to aid the poor and needy.

Even with these advantages, the new pope faces a number of challenges, so much so that Canadian Cardinal Marc Oulluet (an early front runner in this election) was quoted as stating that being Pope “would be a nightmare”.  Beyond the spiritual responsibility it seems that almost every month a new report of abuse emerges against members of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile in one of his final acts, Pope Benedict decreed that a secret report that had been submitted to him on the “Vatileaks” scandal would remained sealed to all but the new Pope leaving some discontent among the electing Cardinals. The new Pope will have to battle against a Vatican bureaucracy and institutional inertia to effect change.

Despite the backing of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, I suspect that many within that number are what could be called “Sunday Morning Catholics” who religiosity extends to Sunday mass and major holidays. Calls for reform from church outsiders and members that could potential stem the decline of church attendance  are up against push back from entrenched hard line Cardinals who seek a continuation of traditional doctrines. Either way, Pope Francis is damned. Should he move towards reform he will alienate traditional elements of the Church. While if he maintains the status quo he will face greater push back from everyday Catholics who seek a more open and inclusive church in the 21st century. Either way, the new Pope’s power to effect change will be constrained.

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Photo credit: dslrtravel.com

Canada First Peoples

Canada’s Shame

The treatment and conditions of living for Canadian Aboriginals has long been a source of embarrassment and discontent within a country that has been known for its human rights record.

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Canada First Peoples

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Canada has long been considered one of the best places to live on this planet due to the high standards of living, good quality education and health care, safe and secure society and an economy that is relatively strong compared to its developed peers. That is not to say Canada is without problems. The treatment and conditions of living for Canadian Aboriginals has long been a source of embarrassment and discontent within a country that has been known for its human rights record. From the residential school system of decades past to contemporary issues of teen suicide, housing, and water crises on native reserves it is clear that much more can and should be done in Canada.  These conditions are not only a black eye for Canadians within Canada but they have drawn international criticism from the United Nations and organizations like Amnesty International.

So the question becomes what can be done about it? There has long been an unspoken belief amongst Canadians and natives that if the First Nation peoples are simply left alone and are able to maintain their traditional cultures and beliefs it would result in a reconnection and reestablishment of their cultural pride and wellbeing that would allow them to overcome the socio-economic challenges that plague many reserves. The method to support this “solution” has for many years been to simply put more money towards a problem. Unfortunately this hasn’t solved the problems as issues of financial competence and accountability of some band leaders have resulted in millions of dollars disappearing whether through waste, inefficiencies, corruption or simply poor accounting. All of this has led to a situation where the status quo is far from ideal and the average Canadian blames all parties involved and they want some form of financial accountability from the native bands while an equitable solution is established.

There are two fundamental obstacles in my view preventing the rehabilitation of aboriginal communities. The first is simply geography. Canada is a massive country and some of the aboriginal communities that face the worst conditions are also some of the most remote. These remote northern communities suffer from a variety of additional challenges that are not faced by aboriginal lands further to the south. The isolation to these communities makes providing services to them very costly and difficult as some communities are only accessible by float plane or ice road. As a result, the cost of everyday goods are exorbitant ($38 Cranberry Juice, $28 Cheese Wiz)  as individuals face massive markup compared to their suggested shelf price found in southern communities. Although these prices do vary between communities, this isolation also results in difficulties attracting nurses, doctors, dentists, teachers, social workers and other role model citizens to provide basic services to the populace of these communities. Those who do decide to work in these communities often do so on short term contract basis for a year or two before moving on to a less demanding position in southern Canada. The resulting turnover means that there is little continuity for inhabitants of these northern aboriginal communities who require these services.

This isolation also breeds its own form of hopelessness. When individuals are raised in such small and isolated communities it creates a vision of the world that also seems equally small. As a result of no economic opportunities, few wholesome activities and a culture of dependency many youths turn to alcohol and substance abuse and these factors of course contribute to the aforementioned suicide issues. Although access to high speed internet has opened up connections to the outside world and allowed for a broadening of horizons and the voicing of issues for those who can/choose to leave the reserves for education, training and a chance at a better life they rarely return to their ancestral lands and as a result a brain drain of the most talented and skilled individuals, is occurring leaving those who are left with few skills and little hope in an ever shrinking community.

The only solution to this issue is of course a highly controversial relocation and resettlement program. With so many far-flung communities it is nearly impossible for the efficient allocation of resources, while economies of scale for local development and commerce see prices set at exorbitant levels. Now this resettlement doesn’t necessarily have to be to the South but just the merging of various far flung northern settlements to central locations where they can be more easily serviced from the South and infrastructure can be developed in a practical manor. Naturally this course of action will be opposed by many communities and portrayed as another attempt to destroy aboriginal culture and heritage but given the floundering conditions that exist in some communities this option is preferable to another day of living in third world conditions in a first world country.

The second issue emerges from a basic aspect of human nature: the idea that humans tend to maintain possessions that they own. When an individual owns something they are much more likely to properly maintain and take care of the possession.  Property on Canadian native reserves is held in commons and as a result, for the vast majority of these reserves, individual families do not own the house or the land that is built on. Aboriginal Canadian families are guaranteed housing under the Indian Act, with funding to build coming to the reserves from the federal government, but the property on these Canadian native reserves is held in commons. As a result, individual families do not own the houses they live in or the land those houses are built on. This lack of ownership is the root of many problems on Canadian reserves.

In many cases the housing issues that are faced on many remote reserves are a result of this lack of ownership. Houses are often poorly maintained with construction of new housing stopping and starting due to money and supply problems. According to Jonathan Kay, during a discussion for the Fraser Institute Student Seminar about aboriginal property issues, he stated that many of the new houses that are built on reserves already have mold problems before construction is complete and in some cases a house only lasts 10 years before requiring replacement.

Since the individual bands collect their money from the federal government and the lack of home ownership means no property taxes exist on the reserves it alters the dynamic of democratic responsibility and accountability of tribal leadership. Although elected by the members of the tribe, the band leadership can only effect change through their financial dependency on the federal government by garnering additional funds from Ottawa, and the most effective way to do this seems to be through highlighting the third world conditions on reserves, blocking road or rail lines in protest or staging hunger strikes. Since the tribal leadership is not financially tied to the members of the tribe this can result in poor accountability within the tribe, where your name and family relations can determine whether or not you receive new housing or not.

This lack of codified property rights compounds issues of economic development as numerous oil and mining companies have made millions if not billions of dollars in investment in and around reserve lands while offering job training, community development funds, and infrastructure, for example. Yet despite contracts being signed these companies find that they still face obstacles from a band or its members who become disgruntled and decide that they would want to squeeze a little more blood from the proverbial stone by blocking key (often only) roads to and from a project .

This lawlessness and disrespect for signed contracts ties back to the fact that these communities have no instilled rights of private property. In many cases these bands and individuals within them have not experienced the rights and responsibilities that come with property rights so it should come as little surprise that they then have little respect for contractual rights. As a result corporations are becoming hesitant in dealing with aboriginal groups thus limiting the ability for economic development to occur which of course feeds back into the cycles of isolation and poverty.

So what should be done? Well there is an unfortunate difference between what should be done and what is politically feasible to be done. What should be done of course is the implementation of private property rights across native reserves in Canada while simultaneously voluntarily relocating certain isolated communities to larger aboriginal population centers. This action would likely result in an aboriginal crisis the likes of which have not been since the Oka Crisis of 1990.

This past summer a more viable alternative was proposed by the federal government which would create a program under the Indian Act to allow tribes to opt out of the collective property management system and establish individual property rights on reserves. The hope would be that if a handful of pilot tribes found success and improving conditions on their reserve that other tribes would choose to opt-out themselves. The widespread adoption would not only be good for the aboriginal communities but Canada as whole.

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Photo Credit:  BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

Karzai

No SOFA: US Troops In Post 2014 Afghanistan

The discussions surrounding US troop numbers in post 2014 Afghanistan are valuable, but only to the extent that US policymakers and military leadership are confident that they will be able to keep any troops in the country at all.

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On Tuesday, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, General Mattis stated that he believed the proper number of NATO troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014 would be 20,000, 13,600 being American. This number is significantly higher than what was discussed at a recent NATO summit, where preliminary estimates were 9,500 US troops and 6000 troops from other NATO nations. The White House has yet to come out with an official number.

These discussions, while important to have for the Administration, Congress, and military leaders to get on the same page, in many ways put the cart before the horse. Before any US troops can be committed to post 2014 Afghanistan, the question of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) has to be resolved. While there are many things covered in a SOFA, the most important and most controversial points are those which grant immunity to US troops from criminal prosecution under Afghan law.

President Karzai has said that he will not make the decision but will make the case for a SOFA to the Afghan people and leave the choice to a Loya Jirga, a meeting of elders. However President Karzai is also the same leader who demanded security contractors leave the country and that US and NATO troops leave Afghanistan’s villages. It seems then that Karzai wants, or understands the necessity of, continued US and NATO presence in Afghanistan, but does not want to be the one held responsible for its potential consequences. By leaving the decision to a Loya Jirga, President Karzai can say “this is what you wanted”, deflecting blame from potentially unsavory US action.

While it would be purely speculative to asses whether a SOFA will be approved by Afghan elders, it is worth highlighting that acknowledging that US troops are needed and agreeing that they should have legal immunity is not the same thing. Local leaders may see the utility in a continued US presence for preventing al Qaeda to regain a foothold, however selling legal immunity to their “constituents” is a horse of a different color. Indeed this is the same problem Prime Minister Maliki faced in the failure to build sufficient support for a SOFA in Iraq. Both alleged criminal actions from US service members, such as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, and civilian casualties from NATO operations, most recently the accidental killing of two young boys gathering firewood who were thought to be Taliban, are likely to be sticking points for the approval of a SOFA by Afghans.

A SOFA is far from settled and without this agreement there will be no US presence in Afghanistan after 2014. As President Obama said in January:

 “It will not be possible for us to have any kind of US troop presence post-2014 without assurances that our men and women who are operating there are (not) in some way subject to the jurisdiction of another country,”

With this line being drawn and a SOFA still unresolved, the discussions surrounding troop numbers in post 2014 Afghanistan are still valuable, but only to the extent that US policymakers and military leadership are confident that they will be able to keep any troops in the country at all. Without legal immunity under a SOFA, the debate over 20,000 or 13,000 troops is a moot point.

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Photo Credit:  isafmedia